Church of Scientology of California v. United States

PETITIONER: Church of Scientology of California
RESPONDENT: United States et al.
LOCATION: North Carolina General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 91-946
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 506 US 9 (1992)
ARGUED: Oct 06, 1992
DECIDED: Nov 16, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Eric M. Lieberman - on behalf of the Petitioner
Lawrence G. Wallace - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Church of Scientology of California v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 06, 1992 in Church of Scientology of California v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 91-946, Church of Scientology of California v. United States and Frank S. Zolin.

Mr. Lieberman, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Eric M. Lieberman:

Thank you.

Mr. Justice and may it... Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case raises the question whether compliance with a district court order enforcing an Internal Revenue Service summons renders any subsequent appeal moot.

The district court below on remand enforced an IRS summons for production of audio tapes held by a disinterested third party record holder, the clerk of the Superior Court of California.

While the case was on appeal, after the notice of appeal was filed, the clerk of the Superior Court complied with the district court's order and permitted the IRS to inspect and copy the tapes.

Subsequently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal from the production order as moot without considering or hearing argument on the merits.

In doing so, the court of appeals held that once a district court enforces an Internal Revenue Service summons for the production of documents, and once the documents are turned over the IRS by either the taxpayer or by a disinterested third-party record holder, the case becomes moot.

This rule applies no matter what proprietary, privacy, or other interests the taxpayer may have in the documents and, of course, no matter how meritorious the taxpayer's appeal may be on the merits, even if the taxpayer is claiming privilege, IRS bad faith, or that there is no legitimate, ongoing Internal Revenue Service investigation.

The court of appeals' rule here is contrary to well-established mootness doctrine as enunciated by this Court and by the lower Federal courts.

Determination of whether a case is moot has long rested on two interrelated considerations: first, the existence of an actual, live controversy between the parties; and second, whether the courts may grant any effectual relief to the prevailing party.

The emphasis here is upon the question of whether any relief may be afforded even if it is only partial relief or relief other than that originally sought at the outset of the case.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, Mr. Lieberman, I take it all the issues on the merits in this litigation are finished.

They're decided.

They're resolved, are they not?

Eric M. Lieberman:

Well, no, Your Honor, I don't believe that's true.

First of all, when this Court decided the first Zolin case, it found that in deciding the crime-fraud issue on an attorney-client privilege issue, the district court could look at any evidence not privileged and lawfully obtained by the Government, and it specifically noted that the question of whether the partial transcripts in this case were lawfully obtained.

It then remanded to the Ninth Circuit, which again declined to reach the issue of whether the transcripts were lawfully obtained, and remanded to the district court for determination of whatever other objections the parties may raise, specifically noting that it was not reaching that particular issue.

Secondly--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

And you did not take... certiorari was not granted from that order.

That order is final.

That's the June 20 order, and that is final.

Eric M. Lieberman:

--That's correct, Your Honor.

That's correct.

But certiorari was not sought on that issue.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

So, it's the law of the case that the court is not going to consider these transcripts.

Eric M. Lieberman:

Oh, no, Your Honor.

We did not seek certiorari on that issue, and the court of appeals did not hold that that issue was precluded from the district court.

It simply said on this appeal, we are not going to be considering that issue.